The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has metamorphosed from being a proud public broadcaster to a public relations machine for Luthuli House‚ the headquarters of the African National Congress, said R2K media freedom organizer, Micah Reddy.
Speaking during a peaceful protest on Monday via a memorandum, Right2Know campaign demanded the removal of SABC Chief Operating Officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
Secondly, the organization and its allies also called on the public broadcaster to terminate its self-censorship. In its memorandum, the R2K also enjoined the public broadcaster to withdraw its revised editorial policy which‚ according to Reddy‚ gives Motsoeneng‚ the sole authority to detect which news comes on air and not.
The protest which took place across SABC’s offices in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban from 10:00, saw many supporters throwing their weight behind the organization. They however promised to kick harder should the SABC fail to meet their demand.
The R2K’s Busi Mtabane said the protest blackout at the SABC amounts to a distortion of facts.
“The reason for our protests is the fact that the public broadcaster’s independence is being undermined by political interference and we saw that management has no respect for editorial integrity.
R2k Comes Hard On SABC
The ban on protest coverage is reminiscent of the SABC when it was a mouthpiece of the Afrikaner nationalist government and sought to plaster over the ugly realities of apartheid and censor the people’s struggle,” the campaign said in a statement.
It added that violence and destruction often accompany protests in the country, but that it is not the role of a public broadcaster to gloss over events and try to fool audiences into believing that everything is rosy.
In May, SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng came under fire after he announced the ban on visuals of communities destroying public property, claiming the footage inspires violence in other communities.
The public broadcaster also banned the reading of newspaper headlines on air across its stations. Defending the decision, it stated that it took the decision when it realized that the reading of newspaper headlines was providing free advertising for the publications that the headlines were being read from.
However, the SABC’s decision to ban violent footage was welcomed many people, but a good number of South Africans slammed the decision.
The African National Congress (ANC) cheerfully welcomed the ABC’s decision to ban such footage, landing them at odds with political allies, Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) – who rejected SABC’s ‘deceptive’ decision.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) Member of Parliament (MP) Phumzile van Damme slammed the move, describing it as an action towards one motive.
Van Damme said “It’s another attempt by Hlaudi Motsoeneng to ban any news that is critical of the ANC.”
On the other hand, National Press Council Director Joe Thloloe likened the SABC’s new policy to same condition set by the apartheid government.
Meanwhile, the SOS Coalition, Media Monitoring Africa and the Freedom of Expression Institute has lodged a complaint with the Independent Communications Authority of SA over the protest ban decision.